Green’s Dictionary of Slang

wire n.2

[the SE wire used as an adjunct to the fingers]

1. the pickpocket who actively steals from his victim, rather than the various accomplices on his team; thus as v., to pickpocket.

[UK]Chester Chron. 25 June 6/5: All the houses are brothels [...] or ‘padding-kens’ where the most desperate thieves resort [...] ‘Bludgeters,’ ‘Charley-pitchers,’ ‘Cracksmen,’ ‘Busmobs’ and ‘Wires,’ ‘Twisters,’ ‘Skinners,’ and ‘Snow-droppers’.
[UK]H. Mayhew Great World of London I 46: ‘Wires,’ who pick ladies’ pockets.
[UK]Leaves from Diary of Celebrated Burglar 8/1: If she is fortunate enough to escape the digits of numberless small fry ‘wires,’ who here make their debut.
[UK]Hotten Sl. Dict.
[US]T. Byrnes Professional Criminals of America [Internet] In the taking of a timepiece the system of jostling and crowding is resorted to while the ‘wire’ (one who actually does the work) is stealing the watch.
[UK]F.W. Carew Autobiog. of a Gipsey 414: I used to go wirin’ in the main-thoroughfares with the Brennans to stall back and front. [*Footnote: when a juvenile prig attains the dignity of a ‘single-handed wire,’ he is usually accompanied during ‘working hours’ by two comrades].
[Aus]Truth (Sydney) 13 Jan. 5/3: ‘The Span of Life’ has been responsible for a congregation of ‘wires’ (pickpockets) and ‘guns’ (thieves) at the stalls entrance of the Theatre Royal.
[Aus]Sydney Sportsman (Surry Hills, NSW) 10 Oct. 1/1: Perhaps there are no guns, welshers, wires or thieves in New South Wales.
[US]H. Hapgood Autobiog. of a Thief 37: If she were in such a position in the crowd as to render it hard for the [...] ‘wire’ to make a touch, one of the ‘stalls’ might bump against her.
[US]J. Sullivan ‘Criminal Sl.’ in Amer. Law Rev. LII (1918) 889: The thief who steals your pocketbook is a ‘wire’ or ‘tool.’.
[US]G. Henderson Keys to Crookdom 42: One of these men, the most skilled, is called a ‘wire’ or ‘tool,’ and it is he who actually ‘lifts’ the ‘poke’ of the victim.
[US]‘Goat’ Laven Rough Stuff 17: I was the ‘wire’ in the mob, and when I’d got a purse, I passed it on straight away to another pal in the elevator.
[US]D. Maurer Big Con 160: He started as a pickpocket and had quite a reputation as a [...] ‘wire.’.
[US]S. Bellow Augie March (1996) 191: All kinds of information about crooks, about dips, wires, and their various tricks.
[US]L. Block ‘Badger Game’ in One Night Stands (2008) 23: He [was] able to feel the wire’s hand dip into his pocket, reaching for his wallet.

2. constr. with the, the act of pickpocketing.

[UK]J. Colebrook Cross of Lassitude 101: The termites of the life [...] who carry out the ‘lemon,’ the ‘tap,’ the ‘wire.’.

In phrases